The 2020 Continental League Cup final was the last top-flight women’s game in England before the country was put into lockdown. Now 12 months later the winners of that game are back to defend their title.
This year Vicarage Road will play host to the 10th instalment of this cup final which sees league leaders and current holders Chelsea take on Bristol City, a team who haven’t had the easiest season in the bottom part of the table.
While Chelsea are on a run of five games in 14 days, which includes their progression to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, Bristol have only played once since their 5-0 loss to Chelsea in the league exactly a month ago. Despite this they are unbeaten in all but two games in 2021; a run of form that has seen them jump off the bottom of the table.
However, going into this game it’s all to play for and despite Chelsea boss, Emma Hayes being happy they are favourites she has praised her opposition, who she believes “have been brilliant this side of Christmas”.
When asked about her record against Bristol she said: “Cups are about one-off events where it’s evens. Yes there is no doubt we have more experience of being in this position than them but they have all the freedom of no expectations. They can just go and play and enjoy themselves.
“They are the teams you must watch the most,” she added.
Leading the Bristol team to face Chelsea will be Matt Beard, currently on maternity cover for Tanya Oxtoby who will also be in attendance at the game. Since Beard’s arrival the team have gone from strength to strength but Hayes, who was pregnant herself when Chelsea won the FA Cup final in 2018, recognises how challenging it will be to be watching from the sidelines.
“You have to really appreciate how difficult this must be for her. She’s at home pregnant while her team are winning and doing well under another manager.
“But Matt has done a tremendous job. He looks really happy and he’s got the team playing with confidence,” she added.
Captain Magda Eriksson is being assessed after a slight injury but the team are hopeful she will be ready to play. She believes “cup moments like this are what you train every day for” but like her manager doesn’t underestimate the challenge ahead.
“They are a team that can compete, there are no walkovers in this league. You expect it to be a tough game with every team you face and I expect it to be the same on Sunday as well.”
Both Eriksson and Hayes picked out Bristol striker Ebony Salmon as a player they will need to keep an eye on during the game.
Eriksson said: “She has some amazing qualities and is in really good form. She is very confident at the moment and that is always a test in itself playing against a confident striker.
“She is a very good counter-attacking player and is always ready for the ball. We as a team need to be on our toes the whole game.”
The Chelsea squad will be without striker Beth England who suffered a concussion in Wednesday’s Champions League game against Athletico Madrid and flew home a day later than the rest of the team.
Kick-off for the final is 2:30 pm, with coverage starting at 2 pm on BT Sport 2.